The Field Guide to Taking Back Control during the COVID-19 Crisis

by Chuck Bolton

The unrelenting news of the COVID-19 pandemic is taking its toll on the mental and emotional well-being of Americans. First, there’s the grief and depression for those who’ve been stricken or lost, of social interactions suspended indefinitely and of the disappearance overnight of their normal routines. Humans are social creatures and the forced isolation the past few weeks is already having consequences.

Then, there is the anticipatory grief of losing more people, the anxiety of the economic toll the pandemic will wreak on the population, more isolation with no end in sight, combined with the very real fear for the safety of everyone and their loved ones.

It’s fair to say that COVID-19 has disrupted every aspect of American life — if not physically, then mentally, emotionally, socially or economically — or some combination of those. Many are feeling fearful, isolated and in disarray. People are paralyzed. Obsessed on what they can’t control and ignoring what they can control. Feeling helpless, they aren’t creating an impact.

With so much seemingly out of our control, what can one do to take back control?

Everyone controls their mind. The brain drives the immune system. When the mind is bombarded with constant bad news, it makes it sick. The immune system will weaken and can make anyone become vulnerable.

Make a choice. First, protect the mind. One way is to quit the over-watching of news. The rising death toll, ventilator and PPE shortages add to everyone’s stress levels. Next, limit time on social media. Too much news and social media leads to horribilizing — a natural human reaction — and it is unproductive to give attention to topics that often cannot be controlled.

After the mind is protected, it’s necessary to feed it with inspiring ideas and insightful information. Individuals must decide to use this time to get better, to become stronger, to reinvent themselves. Commit to making a great impact.

Impact is defined as having a strong effect on someone or something. Everyone was born to make an impact with their life. Sadly, most people at work feel bored, disengaged and adrift; they aren’t having an impact. When they create an impact, they thrive. What’s the price one pays when one isn’t having the impact one is capable of making?

The formula for reinventing one’s impact is: Purpose X Passion X Productivity = IMPACT

Just like all other crises America has faced, the current one will be overcome. My latest book, Reinvent Your Impact, released early this month, is the playbook for overcoming uncertainty with purpose, focus and a plan. This crisis is temporary. Emerge from it with power, taking control of what can be controlled and living a life of impact.

Throughout the book, readers will be inspired by many examples and stories of people who are living lives of impact. Two of those stories are shared below.

The first step is to get clear on the purpose, the overarching principle that gives meaning to life. Everyone has a purpose — even if it hasn’t been found yet. Fewer than 30 percent of leaders have defined theirs or operate it purposefully. Then add passion, which is jet fuel for purpose. Research shows only 12 percent of people are passionate about their work. And the No. 1 reason for turbocharging one’s productivity is to gain the time, energy and resources needed to live the life they desire.

Diana Pierce: Sharing Stories Where People Are Living Their Passion

For nearly 33 years in the Twin Cities, Diana Pierce was one of the most beloved and enduring television personalities. She has been a cornerstone of the region as a news anchor and reporter for the NBC KARE11 family. A hall-of-fame broadcaster, she retired from the airwaves in 2016. But she’s as busy as ever, founding an online show, “What’s Next with Diana Pierce,” where her passion is to help others tell their stories, moving hearts as well as minds.

“The germ of ‘What’s Next with Diana Pierce?’ came from people stopping me at the grocery store and asking me, ‘What’s next for you?’” the former anchorwoman said. “With what we’re doing now, I want them to reflect on what’s next for them, too.” “What’s Next?” is a Facebook Live broadcasted show that helps baby boomers discover new ideas for pursuing their passions and dreams as they approach their “what’s next?”

For the show, Diana books and interviews small-business owners and “encore career” entrepreneurs, financial planners, musicians, authors, and representatives of nonprofits started by or serving the older set. According to the Facebook metrics that Diana studies, “What’s Next?” has a strong following with viewers between the ages of 40 and 70, with two-thirds of them women. Viewers can stream her weekly show at 7 p.m. most Thursdays via Facebook and watch more than 50 previously recorded segments on Facebook or YouTube.

Diana believes “Stories define us. When we want someone to know us, we tell our stories. Given enough time with someone, we might discover similar themes that connect us. We want to share what is deeply true for us. We also want to share that mental thread that motivates us onward and reassures us that what we’ve been doing, when we’re away from family and friends, makes sense when we endure hard work.

“I’m delivering original content that’s interesting and inspiring to viewers who are 50-plus. I look for stories of people in that age group who are chasing their dreams,” she said. Their lives are changing. They have energy and time and are engaging in new activities. Where will their passion lead them?”

Diana herself is modeling the very sort of personal reinvention that she advocates through her videocast. She’s gone from anchor, with a supporting team of dozens of photojournalists, reporters and producers, to a do-it-yourself venture. Diana is on both sides of the camera and calls all the shots. She’s using her gear to craft content delivered on a platform, not over the airwaves. She’s watched on tablets and smartphones, not televisions.

These days, Diana is intensely interested in passion — her own and that of other Minnesotans in midlife and beyond. She’s blazing new trails with her venture and is inspiring, educating and creating great impact for baby boomers as they enter their next phase. Her impact is educating and encouraging those who are 50+.

Diana Pierce’s purpose: Creating content for the 50+ crowd and sharing stories of people living their passion.

Chris Bentley: ‘Providing Safe Passage Down the River of Life’

By all accounts, Chris Bentley is a happy, accomplished and successful man. He knows where he’s going and where he’s been. Blessed with a strong faith, a beautiful wife and family, a thriving business, a close network of friends and good health, life is good. Chris lives purposefully and with passion, creating a positive impact for many.

He makes the world a better place. He operates with great clarity and is deeply fulfilled. He is at peace with his past. But it wasn’t always this way. Here’s Chris’s story.

As the first-born child of a 19-year-old mother and a 29-year-old father, Chris remembers his childhood vividly. Now in his early 60s, he recalls how he continually sought affection and affirmation from his father while growing up.

Chris’s father was a stoic workaholic from the Bay Area. When Chris was young, his father moved the family to Grants Pass, Oregon, and his dad went to work at a small Savings and Loan bank. Chris refers to his father as “emotionally stoic.” His dad wasn’t physically abusive, but he was emotionally abusive and never expressed pleasure in any of Chris’s actions, activities or accomplishments. While his mom loved and quietly encouraged Chris, she, too, desperately sought her husband’s approval and affection and was careful to not anger him.

As a boy and young man, Chris hoped through hard work and perfection he would eventually earn the love of his dad. He pushed himself relentlessly. In high school, Chris excelled academically, made National Honor Society, and worked side jobs. He was an all-conference football player, an expert skier and student body president.

A few years after their move to Oregon, Chris’ father started Orange Torpedo Trips. During the summers, Chris served as a guide on the Rogue River in southern Oregon. As a guide, he safely led novice paddlers for nearly a decade, paddling more than 10,000 miles of whitewater.

His senior year, Chris was recognized as the Jaycee’s Student of the Year and received scholarships to Oregon State and the United States Naval Academy. Unfortunately, despite the many achievements, there were no acknowledgements or compliments from his dad.

At the Naval Academy, Chris placed in the top 10 percent of his class, lettered in boxing and was selected as a company commander. His father never visited him, never called and never wrote. After graduation, for the first time in four years, his father visited Chris at the Academy, but there was no “Congratulations, son. Well done. I’m proud of you. I love you.”

Following graduation and flight training, Chris was assigned to a P3 Orion “sub hunter” squadron to hunt Soviet submarines. As a Naval Flight Officer, Chris and his crew of 13 pursued Soviet submarines in the oceans of the world. As Mission Commander, Chris made sure his crew arrived back to base safely.

After the Cold War ended and after 14 years of service, Chris took leave from the military and entered the private sector.

For the first 40 years of life, Chris realized he strived — to no avail — to make his father proud. He worked extremely hard, was disciplined, goal-oriented and persistent. His motto was “Failure is not an option.” Yet, as focused and as hard as he tried to win his dad’s love, he never succeeded. As Chris recalls, “My dad never delighted in me.”

Some years later, his dad passed away. He and Chris had been estranged for 20 years.

Now, Chris is an accomplished and recognized financial advisor. Today, he helps investors navigate up and down markets, avoid financial potholes, sail through recessions and arrive at retirement safely.

When Chris’s colleague Dave unexpectedly and suddenly passed away, Chris assisted Dave’s widow, Liane, to get her affairs in order. As Chris worked with Liane, he recognized widows need help managing through the financial shocks of early widowhood, because couples often divide responsibilities and the widow doesn’t always have the knowledge or wherewithal to tackle alone what was once a dual effort.

Chris learned that in widows’ most vulnerable of times, they may not have anyone to help them with the practical issues of maintaining a home. Perhaps their husbands handled the financial affairs and managed the investments, so they are uninformed. Or they don’t want to rely on family members for help. In a time of grief, suddenly the widow is faced with overwhelming decisions. She is simply unprepared.

As Chris did more research, he found that, while there were many books available to widows, there was no organization that provided widows with timely financial and legal guidance at no cost.

Recognizing the need, he offered to address it with some of Liane’s new friends from a widow’s support group. The widows were extremely grateful for Chris’s guidance and interest. From this experience, he felt called to do more.

Chris founded Wings for Widows, a public 501(c)(3) nonprofit that utilizes “angel teams” comprised of a financial professional and an experienced widow. After a comprehensive assessment of the widow’s situation, they provide the widow guidance to address her financial and legal needs.

Wings for Widows offers a gentle hand to ensure new widows don’t face a dark and taxing time of life alone. With plans to grow Wings for Widows far beyond Minnesota, Chris has found his purpose and has taken hold of a very big dream.

Looking back on his life and reflecting, Chris’s “red thread” of purpose — the theme that runs through his life — was suddenly apparent. It is to provide safe passage for others. He’s written his purpose statement and purpose story, which he’s allowed me to share.

“As a naval officer, I was a Mission Commander — getting my crew to station, prosecuting enemy submarines, and returning home after 10-hour missions. I provided safe passage from take-off to landing.

“As a sailor, whether skipper or crewman, I weathered storms topside, at the helm, day and night, ensuring safe passage of our sailing vessel and the passengers entrusted to my care.

“As a financial advisor, I guide clients through up and down markets to help them retire comfortably and realize their dreams. I provide safe passage during a lifetime of living and investing.

“As the founder of Wings for Widows, I provide safe passage for new widows, from heartbreak and loss to a future of hope and possibility.

“The purpose, then, that seems to define me is:

To provide safe passage down the river of life, helping others to experience adventure, find and feel joy, and live life fully.”

The impact Chris seeks to make: “To make certain no new widow has to go it alone.”


Chuck Bolton is a coach and advisor to CEOs and a four-time bestselling author. His latest, Reinvent Your Impact: Unleashing Purpose, Passion and Productivity to Thrive, was released April 6 and is available on Amazon. Throughout the book, readers will be inspired by many examples and stories of people who are living lives of impact. They’ll discover, step-by-step, how to design a life of impact. To create great value for themselves and others so they thrive. Since 2000, Bolton has shown his clients how to reinvent their impact and create massive value through his coaching and consulting company, The Bolton Group LLC. He loves inspiring and encouraging others to become their best so they can make their unique difference in the world. Bolton has coached and consulted with more than 1,000 executives and assessed more than 100 top teams. Award-winning clients are a Nobel Prize winner and an E&Y Entrepreneur of the Year, among others. He’s worked with leaders at Abbott, Boston Scientific, Cantel Medical, Hollister, IQVIA, Medtronic, Nonin Medical, Optum, Performance Health, United Healthcare, Vyaire Medical and numerous others.

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